Sony MDR-F1

The MDR-F1 were Sony open headphones released in 1997, and designed for home use. They were part of the “earspeakers” group of headphones, like the AKG K1000, or more recently the Mysphere and RAAL SR1A, where the drivers are not in direct contact with the ears through a sealed front volume (totally sealed or not).

The large pads are resting on the head / ears, and they are made of some sort of microsuede material. The build quality is quite good, with a light magnesium frame and suspension headband. Excellent comfort and easy to drive – only 12 Ohms and highly efficient. I’ve heard lots of drivers died on the F1, so they aren’t the most reliable headphones (which is not unusual with old Sony headphones)

○ Release : 1997
○ Current status : Discontinued
○ Type : Over-ear / Open-back
○ Measured weight : 217g
○ Impedance : 12 Ohms
○ Sensitivity : 100 dB/mW
○ Average used price : $120-200

They sound rather pleasant, but a bit too polite. Tonal balance is mid-centric, a sound signature you don’t hear anymore in modern headphones. Bass is very light. I would almost call them bassless, as there is little to no impact below 100hz. This is one of the most bass-light headphones I’ve owned, with the K501. There is also no midbass.

Midrange is acceptable, and the best part of the frequency response of the F1. It’s flat from 150 to 1 kHz, then rise a bit in the 1-2 kHz range, following by a dip and remaining slightly recessed in the treble. The midrange timbre is a bit weird but it suprisingly doesn’t bother me much.

Some head-fiers call the F1 the equivalent of the HD800 in terms of staging and clarity. Definitely not the case to me. While they indeed sound quite wide, they are not HD800 width level. And not the best word in clarity. The treble lacks sparkle and excitement.

The F1 is definitely not a formula car when it comes to speed and resolution. Its punch and dynamics are decent at best. The midrange remains pleasant. But it works only for certain genres, where bass is rare. Do not try listening to EDM or hip-hop on these. You can still try applying some EQ to the bass.

The F1 is an interesting headphone for sure, but in my opinion it doesn’t compete with the current mid-fi headphones like the HD600 (although it came out in 1997 too). It’s decently resolving and relaxing to listen to, without any sign of harshness (and no muddiness). But very genre specific.

Measurements & Resource


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